Oceania Sevens: Top Four Found in Wet
Torrential rain was the feature of the first stage of knockout play at the 2011 Oceania Sevens Championships at Apia Park.
With three-quarters of the field virtually underwater, and conditions worsening, there was little chance of running rugby, but Fiji and Samoa didn’t let the weather stem the flow of tries.
Fiji will play Australia in the semi finals after the former demolished the Cook Islands 41-0 in the first quarter-final while the Aussies, who are the defending champions, edged Papua New Guinea 12-0.
Samoa was ruthless against their cousins from American Samoa winning by the same scoreline as their main rival Fiji and Tonga secured the coveted ‘best non-core team’ tag with a 15-10 win over Niue to earn a spot at both Wellington and Hong Kong on the upcoming HSBC Sevens World Series.
Top seed Fiji have yet to concede a point in the tournament and were too good for a brave Cook Islands.
Fiji demonstrated the way to play in the conditions, making first-up tackles, clearing the ruck quickly and showing patience with the ball. Their measured approached led to tries to captain Setefano Cakau (2), Livai Ikanikoda and Sevuloni Lutu in the first half and a 24-0 lead at the break.
Waisale Lagilagi joined the fray and immediately crossed for Fiji’s fifth while Ikanikoda set up another replacement Apakuki Vuaviri who lumbered to the tryline.
The final substitute, Semi Radradra, showed his pace on the left flank to complete the whitewash.
“We were pleased with the performance especially how they worked together in the wet conditions” said coach Joe Savou. “Our discipline in the wet was also very good.”
Savou is expecting a challenge from the young Aussies.
“Australia have a good, young side and we will have a tough semi-final with a lot of good play needed from the forwards.”
Tonga and Niue competed well in the second quarter-final but Tonga’s greater skill level saw them go through with a narrow 15-10 victory.
Paula Kata went over for Tonga’s first and captain Vaea Poteki doubled the lead when he crashed over from a tap penalty just before halftime.
Niue sniffed a comeback when Vincent Pihigia finished a good move in the corner but Kata’s second, after he broke two tackles close to the line, gave Tonga a ten-point buffer.
Trailing 5-15 Tony Pulu raced the length of the field for Niue’s second and referee James McPhail allowed a final restart. Tonga duly sent the ball into the grandstand and can pack their bags for the world circuit.
In the third quarter-final Australia found Papua New Guinea’s kick-and-chase game tough to overcome early doors and were also guilty of losing the ball at crucial times. Neither team created any scoring opportunities and went to halftime locked at 0-0.
The monsoon eased slightly in the second spell and Papua New Guinea looked dangerous but Danny Routledge broke the deadlock with a try from long range, showing silky skills with the tricky ball.
Captain Jordan Smiler capped a strong game with a try in the corner and Australia progressed with a tough 12-0 victory.
Uale Mai starred for Samoa as they put American Samoa to the sword in the final quarter-final winning 41-0 in relatively dry conditions.
Falemiga Selesele scored from the kickoff and the captain ran in two tries in quick succession before American Samoa got out of their own half. Mai completed his hattrick on the stroke of halftime.
Leading 22-0 at the break, and with the ground starting to resemble a rugby pitch again after the water subsided, Samoa kept the pressure on their opponents and Tom Iosefo ran away to score his fifth of the tournament.
Replacement David Lemi scored a classy try from a kick-and-chase and Iosefo added a second to make the final score 41-0.
The victory was marred when Lolo Lui hobbled off with an ankle injury and he confirmed his tournament was over.
“It’s the same injury from four years ago which was aggravated yesterday and again today and I will now be resting for the IRB circuit,” said the 29 year-old.
“Tonga will be a physical side and we will need to cut out our mistakes to win the game.”
RESULTS from Quarter Finals
Fiji 41 Cook Islands 0
Tonga 15 Niue 10
Australia 12 Papua New Guinea 0
Samoa 41 American Samoa 0
Draw for Semi Finals
Fiji v Australia
Tonga v Samoa
Plate Semi Finals
Cook Islands v Papua New Guinea
Niue v American Samoa